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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: The Truth About Credit Cards
Colin writes The Truth About Credit Cards to educate both young and old about credit cards, credit scores, and all things credit related.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
My 1st memory of credit card points and miles goes back a long, long way. I’ll never forget my father telling me that he was flying with my mother Business Class to Europe. Seeing how frugal he always was, I knew it wouldn’t have been possible if not for his trusty Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®.
Ever since then I had dreamed of flying Business or First class to Europe.
And now that I’m fairly tall 6’3″, it’s almost a necessity for transatlantic flights, because having my knees literally touching the seat in front of me at takeoff doesn’t quite work for a 10+ hour flight.
Fortunately I’ve learned a great deal about how to acquire points and miles quickly, making my dreams a reality.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog back in 2006. After my work at a mortgage lender exposed me to lots of credit reports, I really began to understand the importance of good credit. Not just to qualify for a mortgage, but also to take advantage of the many amazing credit card offers.
My goal was initially to promote financial literacy, so consumers didn’t make the missteps I often came across when scouring those credit reports. And later the blog became a mixture of credit card reviews with an emphasis on credit scores. For example, what score was needed and how opening new accounts impacts your credits.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I think it goes without saying that the easiest and quickest way to get a lot of miles is by opening a new credit card that offers a stellar sign-up bonus.
Along with that, it’s important to take advantage of the entire offer. For example, if you can earn another 5,000 bonus points for adding an authorized user, why not?
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I’ve been fortunate to travel quite extensively over the years, and it’s really shaped who I am today. I appreciate the many cultures I’ve come across, but also value my own country that much more.
There’s nothing like coming back home after a long trip and appreciating the little things (like a drive-thru window!).
It’s hard to nail down a favorite, but my trip to Turkey and Greece was certainly 1 of my more interesting vacations.
My sister and I traveled from Athens via ferry all the way to Santorini, and then on to Mykonos, and Kusadasi, all by boat. From there we took a short flight to Istanbul where we spent a few nights. It is a truly breathtaking city, especially at night with everything lit up.
We also took a long bus trip to Denizli, and more specifically Pamukkale, to check out the “cotton castle.” It was so very hot that day, but such a unique experience.
I even got the opportunity to sit down with a local shopkeeper and drink some cold beers. He asked me all about life in the United States and it was a fun little exchange. Those are the moments I appreciate most, the non-touristy interaction with locals to get a true sense of the country and its people.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
I often get so excited about earning points and miles that I probably come off a bit crazy. And after meticulously trying to explain how this hobby works, I usually lose them.
I think it’s really easy to get enthusiastic about free worldwide travel, but sometimes it takes some convincing before others get on board. However, teach them how to fly First Class for free once, or book a free 5-star hotel room, and they’ll probably put their phone down and really start listening to you.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
At the end of the day, I don’t believe there’s 1 way to be successful in the hobby. There are literally countless promotions and deals out there, and it’s really tough to keep track of them all. Perhaps the best thing you can do is visit blogs like this to stay on top of the latest news.
Don’t fret if you miss something here and there, but try to put in time daily or weekly to take advantage of the many offers available to you. Sure, you might not have a trip planned this month or even this year, but accruing miles can take time, and you’ll be glad you have them when it comes time to finally get away.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I used to meet up with some friends to watch football or some other playoff game at a nearby bar or restaurant. And without actually realizing it, I was accruing bonus points every time I dined there. It was an unexpected surprise that kept me wanting to go back.
I could even pay the entire bill to maximize my points and have them pay me in cash. Sneaky I know, but the points kept flowing in. It’s always nice to see points wind up in your account when you least expect it.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Probably the fact that miles and points cards can go a lot further than an everyday cash back card. Cash back is great and all, but when your points can send you around the world and back, that sort of value can’t be beat.
However, I still take advantage of both types of offers because it’s also sensible to put some money back in your pocket if and when you can. After all, you’ll need spending money for your trip!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m American and Scottish and I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where I have family dating back many, many years.
Any parting words?
If you’re looking for a unique, beautiful, and magical place to visit, try the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
It truly is breathtaking and so far removed from everything, and the road to Skye is equally beautiful via Glencoe and the rest of the Highlands. They even have some Michelin-star rated restaurants for those who like to travel in style!
Colin – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!